Everyone knows about The Man Who Won’t Pay Me.
If you don’t, count yourself lucky to have escaped one of my many tirades on the subject.
In short a client reneged on a contract with me and owes me, what is to me a lot of money, and what is to him pocket change.
Yes, if I had some foresight I would not have trusted him.
Yes, when I saw it happen to other people I should have realised it would happen to me.
But I didn’t.
And that doesn’t make me stupid, or deserving of not being paid.
I may be a “liberal woman”, which is apparently worse than being and independent one.
I may be white girl from the suburbs.
But I don’t like bullies.
And I don’t like being threatened.
I could have walked away and swallowed my pride and my hurt.
I didn’t, thanks to the strength and guidance of the people around me.
In particular the Husband and the team at Wertheim Becker.
Sol Gordon and Eric Kgosietsile have kept me calm, advised me and done everything possible to keep my costs down. They are incredibly professional, look just the way lawyers should look, but most importantly never told me not to bother. They never made me feel like an idiot for not seeing this coming.
Sadly, many other contract workers and freelancers don’t have this luxury. The thought of paying for a lawyer and going through the legal process may not seem worth it for a fairly paltry sum.
For me, the money is only a small part of it.
More is made up by the principle of the matter and the hope that my success will empower other people to do the same.
Even better, when I get my judgement it will be listed against the company name on the ITC for five years. This means that in every tender, every RFP, I will be able in some small way to plant a seed of doubt in their credibility.
If only every supplier who has experienced the same thing, and they are legion, had done the same, we could stop it happening to anyone else. And we could stop people like this from profiteering off our work.
The Advertising Standards Authority should offer some support to the freelance community to blacklist bad payers, not only make sure the wider world is not offended. The Association of Advertising and Communication should stand not only for agencies but for us too.
Unlike most sector in South Africa, advertising workers are not really protected by a union and most agencies discourage joining one. In fact one of my first contracts stated that membership of a trade union would have me instantly dismissed.
The closest union that supports workers in advertising is Bemawu (Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union). I can find them on Facebook, I can read their blog, but I can’t find out how to sign up. Also, their focus is on broadcast media.
There is also the Media Workers Association of South Africa (MWASA) who seem to have no online presence at all. They have a registered URL, but there’s no-one home.
This does not bode well for help from this quarter.
It seems mineworkers are better able to protect their interests than advertising people.
Here’s a thought. A mineworker with Standard 6 education and a tertiary educated Advertising first timer begin with about the same starting salary. On average the mineworker’s salary will increase about 15% a year. On average the adman’s take home will increase at about 4% if they are lucky – not even a cost of living increase.
We could learn from them. And we should.
In the meantime, hold thumbs for me.